Furman University

University Chooses Cloud-Based Email for Students and Staff, Saves $450,000

Solution Overview:

Organization Size

858 employees

Organization Profile

Founded in 1862, Furman University is an undergraduate liberal arts college located on a 750-acre campus in Greenville, South Carolina. It has more than 2,700 undergraduates.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365 for education
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Microsoft Exchange Online
  • Microsoft Lync Online
  • Microsoft SharePoint Online
  • Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync
Vertical Industries

Higher Education


United States



Company Overview:

To improve the learning experience on campus, Furman University is offering students and faculty cloud-based messaging and collaboration services.

FURMAN UNIVERSITY case studyIt chose Microsoft Office 365 for education instead of Google Apps for Education because it worked better with students’ mobile devices and with the university’s systems. Students and faculty are more productive with real-time communication tools, and the university is avoiding US$450,000 in storage costs.

Business Needs:

Furman University is one of the nation’s premier undergraduate liberal arts colleges, offering outstanding academics, opportunities for a broad range of talented students with a passion for learning, a robust visual and performing arts program, and competitive NCAA Division I athletics. Its campus in Greenville, South Carolina, is nationally acclaimed for its beauty, and the residential student body is the ideal size to enhance scholarly activity, personal growth, and leadership development.

Furman University wanted to offer an environment of reliable, flexible communications among students and faculty that is necessary for learning. However, its email solution, FirstClass from Open Text, had become a source of frustration for students and employees. “People wanted an email and calendar service that worked with their mobile devices,” says Fred Miller, Chief Information Officer at Furman University. “Our previous system required a proprietary email client, so we couldn’t support a ‘bring your own device’ scenario for our students and employees.”

It was also difficult for IT staff to deliver on the university’s strategic communications plans. FirstClass did not operate well with the university’s enterprise systems; nor was it possible to integrate mail and calendaring into the Microsoft SharePoint-based student information portal. “We are in the business of helping people communicate, but our previous system was an island unto itself—not the best platform for building a unified communications strategy, or moving to a VoIP [voice over IP] solution,” says Dexter Caldwell, Director of Systems and Networks at Furman University.

The university had to maintain its on-premises email solution, so there was little money left over for data storage. Consequently, students and most employees had 400 megabytes of storage for email. “When we experienced a local drive failure and lost a day’s worth of email messages a couple of years ago, we began to think about a different email solution,” says Miller. “We knew the cost-saving benefits of cloud services, so we decided to start there.”


The Furman University IT team worked with B2B Technologies, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, to help test Microsoft Office 365 for education, cloud-based collaboration and real-time communications tools for educations and students. The team also evaluated Google Apps for Education. Furman University chose Office 365 for education, which includes Microsoft Exchange Online email and calendaring service; Microsoft Lync Online for instant messaging (IM), video conferencing, and screen sharing; and a collaboration framework with Microsoft SharePoint Online. It also includes Microsoft Office Web Apps.

We wanted to facilitate academic collaboration for learning. With Microsoft Office 365 for education, we have the best tools to do that.

– Dexter Caldwell
Director of Systems and Networks, Furman University.

B2B provided engineering and design resources, working with Furman administrators during implementation. Much of this work was facilitated by the collaboration tools in Office 365, reducing transportation costs and adding flexibility in scheduling engineering sessions when teams were available to collaborate. “The support from B2B was outstanding,” says Miller. “We needed help retrieving email from our previous system and we found a tool from Aptiris, which got the job done. And Microsoft was very responsive whenever we called.”

IT staffers liked how Office 365 for education operates with Active Directory Domain Services, a feature of the Windows Server operating system that IT staff could use to achieve a single sign-on scenario and integrate email and calendaring services into the student portal. The team liked how the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, part of Exchange Online, simplified email configuration on different phone platforms and non-Windows devices. “The easiest mail configuration I ever had was setting up my Mac Mail to work with Office 365,” says Miller. “Office 365 offered a familiar user interface that would boost adoption—and give students experience with productivity tools they’ll likely use in the workplace.”

Furman also worked with academic value-added reseller, ScholarBuys. “They helped to explain the licensing for cloud services,” says Caldwell. “Between B2B, ScholarBuys, and Microsoft, we felt supported 100 percent.” Furman University deployed Exchange Online to all students in March 2012. All employees will be using the email service by September 2012.


Furman University is now taking advantage of the power of the cloud to offer students and employees productivity-enhancing communication and collaboration services. IT staff can use Office 365 for education to reinforce the university’s reputation for “engaged learning” in a supportive, caring environment, while saving money. Students can use the new tools on their own devices to connect better with each other and with mentors, improving the quality of their academic and social experience on campus.

Reduces IT Costs
Furman University is avoiding ongoing hardware and storage costs by replacing an on-premises solution with a cloud-based email service. Now it can make progress with its plans for unified communications, and provide better IT services for employees. “We couldn’t afford to offer the 25 gigabytes of storage that you get with Exchange Online,” says Miller. “But with the estimated [US]$450,000 storage costs we’ll be avoiding, we can help people manage their email better.”

Facilitates Productivity, Learning
Employees and students find Office 365 for education easy to adopt and are already working more productively. IT staff was ready with extra support when it introduced the service, but students easily configured their service on their own devices. “Today more than 90 percent of students are using Exchange Online to communicate and share calendars with peers and teachers—an indication that we made the right choice,” says Miller.

When students begin using Lync Online for real-time communications, their productivity will increase even more. “We wanted to facilitate academic collaboration for learning,” says Caldwell. “With Office 365 for education, we have the best tools to do that. Using Lync Online for video conferencing, whiteboarding, and IM will open up an amazing new dimension to learning at Furman University.”


Microsoft Case Study: Furman University

Partner(s): B2B Technologies :

b2b technologies

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